Florida Airport Liability Lawyers
Airports present the potential for a dynamic range of incidents, most of which fall into the category of civil tort litigation. Whereas most of aviation law is focused almost exclusively on liability and harm, airports incidents offer a significantly broader variety of legal challenges.
Podhurst Orseck has nearly a half-century of experience representing plaintiffs who were harmed at airports and by airport operators and personnel. We understand ordinances, zoning and regulatory matters and how these laws apply to airports. Our airport litigation experience encompasses:
- Insurance coverage debates
- Nuisance and trespass claims
- Environmental litigation, including class action and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) responses
- Construction bids and contractual agreement enforcement actions
- Slip and falls and premises liability claims
- Regulatory compliance matters
- Tenant liability obligations, subrogation and indemnification matters
- Airline property rights and responsibilities enforcement under leases
- Airport employees’ rights and obligations
- Zoning claims
- Security screening treatment matters, including invasion of privacy and allegations of discriminatory treatment
- Baggage liability limitations
- Representation in deposition requests and subpoenas as well as expert inspections of machinery, equipment and facilities
- Federal Aviation Administration regulatory compliance reviews and disputes
- Fueling compliance matters
- Firefighting compliance matters
- TSA regulatory compliance matters
Determining Liable Parties
Airports range in size from the heavily controlled Class Bravo Airspace Airports such as John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to informally controlled grass strips with nothing nearby for miles. Airport liability issues generally encompass mid-size state or municipally run air facilities. Liability cases against privately owned airstrips would be brought against the owner of the land.
States or commonwealths administer some airport operations. While they may contract the labor, “GOCO” airports (government-owned, contractor-operated) remain a “state function” for the purposes of litigation. It is well-established that states enjoy sovereign immunity: states are immune from lawsuits unless they agree to be sued or waive immunity. This includes immunity from tort liability in aviation accident cases. Some states have enacted laws that eliminate immunity from suit and immunity from tort liability. In addition, many states have enacted tort claims acts modeled after the Federal Tort Claims Act. Depending on the state, an individual may be able to recover for injuries sustained in an aviation accident from a state-operated facility.
Municipal Corporation Liability
Municipal corporations also run many airports. If you are injured in an airport accident, you would generally include the municipal corporation that runs the airport as a defendant in a lawsuit. Some states provide no municipal immunity for tort liability, regardless of whether their actions were governmental or private in nature. Other states have enacted laws that give municipal corporations immunity from liability in connection with airport operations. Still other states hold municipalities liable for negligence in the operation of airports where the action is private, but grant immunity where it is governmental in nature. Other states have laws that classify the operation of municipal airports as a private or proprietary function rather than a government function and provide that a municipality can be liable for negligence.